My dad was ten years old when he read The Amazing Spider-Man #33. It was his first comic book. The issue was found in his house, left behind by an older brother who had grown bored with it. He was drawn in by the images and watching Spider-Man overcome impossible odds to save the day. The artwork stays with him years later. The issue is long gone, either sold or thrown out, the sad fate of many Silver Age issues. It has been replaced with a collection book released decades later, serving as a reminder of the past.
I was twelve years old when I read Ultimate Spider-Man #1. It was my first comic book. The book was purchased at a local comic book store, my older brother convinced dad to buy it. I was drawn in by the images and watching Peter Parker, who was not much older than myself, deal with life. The story stays with me years later. The book remains on the self, the only out of hundreds showing signs of repeated reading. The spine has peeled in parts and the cover corners are curling – but I will never get rid of it.
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You never forget your first. When I asked my dad what his first comic book was I only hoped for a title, I did not expect an issue number. But he looked at me smugly and said Spider-Man #33. It should be in one of the collection books on the shelf, just if it is sealed do not open it. Luckily it was not sealed and within minutes I was reading the issue. He hovered over my shoulder, pointing at panels he remembered and saying why he liked them.
My dad read his first comic over forty years ago and still remembers it.
My first was over ten years ago with the third printing of the Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperback. This book is the reason I read comics. The Ultimate Universe was an experiment by Marvel to get a new generation of readers into comics, guess it worked. This introductory story is similar to the origin story of Spider-Man from the 1960’s, though this time he is younger and not followed by decades of back issues.
Peter Parker was like me. He was only a few years older and had issues in school, often called a nerd. More importantly he made mistakes. The death of Uncle Ben is a constant in all Spider-Man universes, showing the mistakes we are capable of and the hardships in the wake of death. From these beginnings came one of the greatest heroes, one of the greatest humans anyone could ask for. Repeatedly he tried to make his city safer, to fight battles others were afraid to fight. In doing so he suffered. He lost family and friends but gained new ones and carried on with life. As he grew I grew and in no time we were the same age thanks to the nature of comic book aging. The issues he dealt with became more relevant as I navigated high school and dealt with personal loss. He wasn’t Spider-Man, he was Peter Parker, my friend.
I say was because four years ago Peter Parker died saving his family. I mourned the loss of my friend. The universe I fell in love with changed. A new Spider-Man was introduced in Miles Morales and while he is a strong character and I enjoy his stories he isn’t mine. I did not grow up with Miles and was ten years his senior at his premiere, I look at him and see the person I was, not the person I am.
This year the rest of the Ultimate Universe will join Peter Parker, again I will mourn and fondly remember the world that changed my life.